As a practicing Muslim, I fully agree with Dr. Wollaston.
The niqab does not seem to have any foundations in Islamic texts; it rather seems to have come from fundamentalist Islamism, which looks down on women both in its religious texts and its unequal justice regarding women its application of Sharia law.
Permitting the niqab in the British legal and educational systems, therefore, not only further legitimizes Islamist fundamentalism, but also opens the door for enforced apartheid, in which veiled women would keep looking at unveiled British women as different or even immoral, while British Muslim men would look at women as dehumanized creatures to be isolated from the world by the veil.
Such a fundamentalist view — if legitimized by the British establishment — would not only seriously limit the ability of British Muslims to integrate into British civil society, but worse, worse, it would reinforce even more emphatically an official view to British women wearing the veil that they are indeed inferior. In officially hardening this view that a woman’s worth is lower than that of a man — in men’s eyes, in society’s eyes, and in the eyes of these girls and women themselves — the British government would be committing a horrendous injustice.
As a Muslim living in the UK, I believe British Muslims have not been successful in integrating into the British society; if the niqab were to be allowed officially at schools and courts, British Muslims would fail to integrate even further.
The UK must not give in to fundamentalists who tamper with the British way of life and thereby make it even harder for moderate Muslims who do want to belong and integrate.
While freedom of religious practice is held dearly by British laws, and should be, the British legal and educational systems must not be compromised by Islamist ideology, which is deemed extreme and oppressive by so many Muslims.